A project developed by four Penn students has grown to provide food for more than 10,000 people in Sierra Leone.
Last year, the United States Department of State funded College junior Shay Moon's project to revitalize food production and circulation in Sierra Leone, which has grown over the past year to reach thousands of food-insecure families in rural areas of the country.
This summer, Moon returned to Sierra Leone with three rising Penn sophomores to further the success of these collective farms — some of which are now producing up to 175,000 kilograms of food aid each year.
Moon wrote the grant after spending a month in Kalangba, a village in northern Sierra Leone, in the summer of 2016. He noticed the devastating effects of the lack of stable food supply in the region. After his first visit, Moon left behind a basic outline of administrative structures and contracts so that people in the village could receive the grant money.
The village of Kalangba was devastated by a civil war and the Ebola crisis in recent decades. Moon's project aims to encourage the growth of community farms. The produce from these farms goes to food banks until the dry season when it can be distributed to food-insecure families, Wharton sophomore and project member Santiago Herrera said.
The group encountered administrative challenges faced by non governmental organizations in the region as they attempted to make the project more sustainable.
“The system that governs how NGOs work in developing economies such as Sierra Leone is broken because there is no accountability,” project member and College sophomore Adam Green said.
Moon credits their success in the region to “explaining the baby steps of what administration looks like and then establishing really good interpersonal connections with everyone involved."
Moon said a State Department representative told him the project was successful but would no longer receive funding due to "budgetary concerns." The program has grown to become relatively self-sufficient in the village, he said, but cannot expand to other villages without additional funding.
“Small villages in the region have very similar socio-economic challenges so the project could have just been [used as a template],” Moon said. However, he remains optimistic that he will have the chance to return to the project after he graduates.
Moon emphasized that students do not have to wait until they graduate to pursue ideas for development projects.
“It’s really the story of just being brave enough to talk about what you care about with people at Penn and realizing that often they have similar interests and cool stuff can come from that,” he said.
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